A Succinct Comment about Race in America

 

On a recommendation from the Ricochet staff, I was listening today to a Glenn Loury / John McWhorter podcast on the topic of critical race theory, here, and I had what seems to me now an obvious thought about how to frame the discussion of race.

Whatever the history of racism in America, whatever the legacy of that injustice, what needs to change is the behavior of those black Americans who are failing to thrive.

That’s it. More sensitivity, awareness, self-flagellation, or self-loathing on the part of white Americans, however much some people think that’s appropriate, won’t fix the problem, because the problem is behavioral, and the behaviors that have to change are the behaviors of troubled black Americans.

Some will argue, of course, that it’s the behavior of white Americans that causes the dysfunction of black Americans. The response to those people is simple: let’s document the specific behaviors of all concerned that lead to problems, and see what is most urgently in need of correction. I think any honest effort to do so will quickly illuminate the real problems.

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  1. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    But, this would involve the modification of behavior learned (and encouraged) since 1964.  Gonna be a tough slog…

    • #1
  2. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Henry Racette: The response to those people is simple: let’s document the specific behaviors of all concerned that lead to problems, and see what is most urgently in need of correction.

    Not marrying when having children.

    Not becoming educated.

    Not working honest jobs.

     

    • #2
  3. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    You are of course right. But humans need to be both sensible and reasonable to say what you have said. 

    • #3
  4. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    You are of course right. But humans need to be both sensible and reasonable to say what you have said.

    Current American culture is neither sensible nor reasonable.  Making the claim in the OP quote, will cause an avalanche of cancel – because “racism”.  

    • #4
  5. Jim Beck Inactive
    Jim Beck
    @JimBeck

    Afternoon Henry,

    Could you link to the podcast.  Thanks

    • #5
  6. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Jim Beck (View Comment):

    Afternoon Henry,

    Could you link to the podcast. Thanks

    Hi Jim. I linked it in the first sentence, but here it is again.

    • #6
  7. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: The response to those people is simple: let’s document the specific behaviors of all concerned that lead to problems, and see what is most urgently in need of correction.

    Not marrying when having children.

    Not becoming educated.

    Not working honest jobs.

     

    And it should be pointed out that these three things are not some stab at blacks; they are true of humans. White humans who flout these practices will also fare poorly. It’s not racist, just true.

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    The black Americans you are talking about don’t appear interested in changing their behavior and realizing their own power to succeed. They’d rather complain and be victims: it’s so much easier. Also I heard Heather McDonald on a podcast, and she said that people play the victim because they are empowered by that role; everyone must cater to them and they don’t have to do a thing.

    And in today’s environment, if a suffering black were to decide to take charge of his life and do well, he’d probably be accused of “acting white.” It is a sad and difficult time.

    • #8
  9. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    I know this is right. 

    But all humans have some bad behaviors, and we don’t much like to think about them and when someone else invites us to think about the, it’s hard not to hear, “you suck.” 

    I often think of movies where the jilted girlfriend is surrounded by her friends who all drink and talk about what a horrible person the boyfriend was. They do it to help, but in the long run, anything that prevents self-examination contributes to making the same relationship mistakes over and over again. It takes incredible resolve to believe you are responsible for your condition when so many people are telling you that it’s someone else’s fault. 

    • #9
  10. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    TBA (View Comment):
    But all humans have some bad behaviors, and we don’t much like to think about them and when someone else invites us to think about the, it’s hard not to hear, “you suck.”

    Humans do suck. 

    • #10
  11. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Susan Quinn @SusanQuinn 35 Minutes Ago

    The black Americans you are talking about don’t appear interested in changing their behavior and realizing their own power to succeed. They’d rather complain and be victims: it’s so much easier. Also I heard Heather McDonald on a podcast, and she said that people play the victim because they are empowered by that role; everyone must cater to them and they don’t have to do a thing.

    But more and more blacks are getting sick of the victimhood narrative as well. 

    This is all happening at once. 

    • #11
  12. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    I think truth wins when a great many people are willing to speak it. It doesn’t matter which subset of Americans that is, whether it’s the people who suffer from the bad behavior or the people who don’t: the narrative wilts when it loses that patina of non-critical acceptance.

    So we speak it, and encourage others to do so as well.

    • #12
  13. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    I think the podcast with Jay and Gloury should have been called, Corrected Vision or Men with Corrected Visions or something.

    • #13
  14. KevinKrisher Inactive
    KevinKrisher
    @KevinKrisher

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: The response to those people is simple: let’s document the specific behaviors of all concerned that lead to problems, and see what is most urgently in need of correction.

    Not marrying when having children.

    Not becoming educated.

    Not working honest jobs.

    And it should be pointed out that these three things are not some stab at blacks; they are true of humans. White humans who flout these practices will also fare poorly. It’s not racist, just true.

    This is a really important point. If any person refuses to make choices that increase his or her chances of success, then outside help will probably be of little or no benefit. This is implied in the definition of helping, which suggests that primary responsibility remains with the person who is receiving help rather than the person giving it.

    But choices are never made in a vacuum, and they are usually not simply a matter of making up one’s mind. If choices that promote failure become cultural expectations – e.g., having children out of wedlock, not taking education seriously, not maintaining social sanctions against dishonesty, aggression, and law breaking – then it becomes more difficult to make good choices.

    • #14
  15. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: The response to those people is simple: let’s document the specific behaviors of all concerned that lead to problems, and see what is most urgently in need of correction.

    Not marrying when having children.

    Not becoming educated.

    Not working honest jobs.

     

    And it should be pointed out that these three things are not some stab at blacks; they are true of humans. White humans who flout these practices will also fare poorly. It’s not racist, just true.

    And obey the law.

    • #15
  16. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    KevinKrisher (View Comment):
    If choices that promote failure become cultural expectations – e.g., having children out of wedlock, not taking education seriously, not maintaining social sanctions against dishonesty, aggression, and law breaking – then it becomes more difficult to make good choices.

    Yes. And nothing I’m saying is intended to suggest that young black men face an easy choice. But if we’re going to break that cultural expectation that, I believe, is handicapping them and making it hard for them to change their behavior, it has to begin by acknowledging that, yes, their behavior needs to change. As long as misguided people insist that the problem is elsewhere, in some vague and undefined “systemic” or “cultural” racism, they’re preventing us from dealing honestly and effectively with the problem.

    • #16
  17. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    KevinKrisher (View Comment):

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: The response to those people is simple: let’s document the specific behaviors of all concerned that lead to problems, and see what is most urgently in need of correction.

    Not marrying when having children.

    Not becoming educated.

    Not working honest jobs.

    And it should be pointed out that these three things are not some stab at blacks; they are true of humans. White humans who flout these practices will also fare poorly. It’s not racist, just true.

    This is a really important point. If any person refuses to make choices that increase his or her chances of success, then outside help will probably be of little or no benefit. This is implied in the definition of helping, which suggests that primary responsibility remains with the person who is receiving help rather than the person giving it.

    But choices are never made in a vacuum, and they are usually not simply a matter of making up one’s mind. If choices that promote failure become cultural expectations – e.g., having children out of wedlock, not taking education seriously, not maintaining social sanctions against dishonesty, aggression, and law breaking – then it becomes more difficult to make good choices.

    Once upon a time, a bastard child was doom for the mother and the child both. 

    It was cruel, so we fixed it. 

    And now what was rare (and damaging) is normative (and still damaging). 

    But fixing problems into bigger problems is the price of do-goodery. 

    Indeed, it is the price of legislatures. 

    • #17
  18. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Henry Racette:

    Whatever the history of racism in America, whatever the legacy of that injustice, what needs to change is the behavior of those black Americans who are failing to thrive.

    Some will argue, of course, that it’s the behavior of white Americans that causes the dysfunction of black Americans. The response to those people is simple: let’s document the specific behaviors of all concerned that lead to problems, and see what is most urgently in need of correction. I think any honest effort to do so will quickly illuminate the real problems.

    This formulation, also applied to poor white, sotto voce “trash,” (see for example Hillbilly Eulogy), is very convenient. It is all their fault, or effectively their fault. We need not deal with the malignant forces of the almost universal welfare state and laws/ordinances/policies that enable predators whilst keeping communities under permanent, multigenerational siege. I mean siege like Beirut level siege. Without basic security, there is no chance of stable employment, business growth, or education. Both Democrat and RepubliCAN’Ts are to blame here. 

    AND.

    We need not deal with the malignant forces of the Republican business wing’s century or more long rigging, in collusion with the welfare state left, of the economic game. We saw President Donald Trump as a unique response to that gross, cynical, systemic corruption. He used the full power of Article II, with all the additional pieces ceded by Congress and the Courts to the unconstitutional Fourth Branch (the Administrative State), to drive employment and wages in the favor of those left behind and kept down for decades by crooked immigration and trade policy designed to permanently suppress wages by importing cheap temporary labor and exporting jobs. President Trump also responded to the sharp increase in killings of black and brown people in 2020 with a very public order, to the entire federal law enforcement apparatus, to apply every resource to getting killers and sources of street level violence behind bars. This is why there was a significant increase in black women voting for a Republican president in 2020, and this is why the Democrats and RepubliCAN’Ts colluded to produce the outcome with which we are now living.

     

    • #18
  19. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    We need not deal with the malignant forces of…

    Clifford, your comments may well be spot-on. But we — America — seem to have some confusion about what exactly is the problem, and so it seems sensible to me to encourage us to go back to basics and work up from there.

    The immediate problem is one of behavior. Once we agree about that we can start discussing why the behavior is the way it is, what barriers there are to improving it, etc. That’s practical, and it avoids the trap of distracting preconceptions (e.g., “systemic racism,” etc.).

    So, back to the individuals who are behaving badly, and the specific behaviors that are hurting them and the people around them. We can talk about the big picture, whatever that is, after we’ve done first acknowledged the immediate problem. And since we don’t all agree about what the bigger issues are, we should be careful to walk slowly back from those immediate problems, rather than leaping to conclusions about larger systemic issues.

    • #19
  20. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    TBA (View Comment):

    KevinKrisher (View Comment):

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: The response to those people is simple: let’s document the specific behaviors of all concerned that lead to problems, and see what is most urgently in need of correction.

    Not marrying when having children.

    Not becoming educated.

    Not working honest jobs.

    And it should be pointed out that these three things are not some stab at blacks; they are true of humans. White humans who flout these practices will also fare poorly. It’s not racist, just true.

    This is a really important point. If any person refuses to make choices that increase his or her chances of success, then outside help will probably be of little or no benefit. This is implied in the definition of helping, which suggests that primary responsibility remains with the person who is receiving help rather than the person giving it.

    But choices are never made in a vacuum, and they are usually not simply a matter of making up one’s mind. If choices that promote failure become cultural expectations – e.g., having children out of wedlock, not taking education seriously, not maintaining social sanctions against dishonesty, aggression, and law breaking – then it becomes more difficult to make good choices.

    Once upon a time, a bastard child was doom for the mother and the child both.

    It was cruel, so we fixed it.

    And now what was rare (and damaging) is normative (and still damaging).

    But fixing problems into bigger problems is the price of do-feel-goodery.

    Indeed, it is the price of legislatures.

    FIFY, with due respect.

    • #20
  21. Jim Beck Inactive
    Jim Beck
    @JimBeck

    Evening Henry,

    Thanks for providing the second link after I missed the original one.  I do not know which is getting thicker faster, my brain, or my cataracts.  To add to what Clifford said about the underclasses in America and how they also have adopted self-defeating life choices, in England the rate of children born to single parents is just a tick higher than here.  Couple that with the fact that, as Sowell and others have noted, blacks were married at a higher rate that whites from 1890 until 1940,  then we might look at what happened in the middle of the century to begin to weaken habits of marriage,  child support, no fault divorce, weakening of faith? To tease out these cultural changes might be less fruitful than working on schools.  Again we know from Sowell and his latest book  “Charter Schools and Their Enemies” that there are thousands of folks in the NY lottery system trying to get a chance to go to a charter school, and we know from Sowell that the “Success Academy” is the best of the NY charter schools and that those schools operating out of NY public schools dramatically improve the academic work of their students.  Lastly, we conservatives have been pathetic at fighting for good education for city schools, we can do better.

    Glenn and John are great, throw in Coleman Hughes and Jason Riley, wonderful folks of a younger generation that Sowell, Williams, and Steele, super thinkers and observers of culture.

    • #21
  22. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette:

    Some will argue, of course, that it’s the behavior of white Americans that causes the dysfunction of black Americans. The response to those people is simple: let’s document the specific behaviors of all concerned that lead to problems, and see what is most urgently in need of correction. I think any honest effort to do so will quickly illuminate the real problems.

    Thomas Sowell already did that work. It was white liberals building the welfare state.

    • #22
  23. John Racette Inactive
    John Racette
    @JohnRacette

    If people want to handicap themselves it’s their business. It’s sad, because we only go around once, so they’re short-changing themselves. 

    But the opportinities afforded by the American experience are humanity’s best chance to achieve individual greatness.

    Aim high, I say.

    • #23
  24. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette:

    Some will argue, of course, that it’s the behavior of white Americans that causes the dysfunction of black Americans. The response to those people is simple: let’s document the specific behaviors of all concerned that lead to problems, and see what is most urgently in need of correction. I think any honest effort to do so will quickly illuminate the real problems.

    Thomas Sowell already did that work. It was white liberals building the welfare state.

    Probably.

    But here’s the thing. When you have one group loudly proclaiming one “cause” fairly removed from the specific problems and not obviously connected to it, and other groups arguing that a different set of similarly distant (but perhaps more plausible) factors are at play, it helps to cut through some of the abstraction and go back to the problems themselves and see what they reveal.

    For example, we have an awful lot of young black men shooting each other. We should ask why, specifically, they are doing that. When you do it that way, “systemic racism” is a pretty lame-sounding answer. So too is “because of the welfare state,” even though that might ultimately be revealed to be an important component of the problem.

    These young men are shooting each other for a reason, or for several reasons. They have to stop shooting each other if we want to solve the problem of violence in their communities. Why are they participating in crime? Why aren’t they working, doing productive things? What is going wrong, or has gone wrong, that results in them shooting each other?

    Here on Ricochet there’s probably broad agreement that the problem is, ultimately, bad social policy. But that’s no more convincing to a typical person brought up on claims of “systemic racism” than is that claim to me. So, to reach some kind of shared understanding, it seems that we should all agree to start at the beginning and see what plausible sequence of cause-and-effect we can come up with when we do that.

    • #24
  25. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    John Racette (View Comment):
    Aim high, I say.

    Easy for you to say: you’re New Mexico Satellite Man.

    Most of us are earth-bound.

    • #25
  26. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Probably.

    But here’s the thing. When you have one group loudly proclaiming one “cause” fairly removed from the specific problems and not obviously connected to it, and other groups arguing that a different set of similarly distant (but perhaps more plausible) factors are at play, it helps to cut through some of the abstraction and go back to the problems themselves and see what they reveal.

    For example, we have an awful lot of young black men shooting each other. We should ask why, specifically, they are doing that. When you do it that way, “systemic racism” is a pretty lame-sounding answer. So too is “because of the welfare state,” even though that might ultimately be revealed to be an important component of the problem.

    These young men are shooting each other for a reason, or for several reasons. They have to stop shooting each other if we want to solve the problem of violence in their communities. Why are they participating in crime? Why aren’t they working, doing productive things? What is going wrong, or has gone wrong, that results in them shooting each other?

    Here on Ricochet there’s probably broad agreement that the problem is, ultimately, bad social policy. But that’s no more convincing to a typical person brought up on claims of “systemic racism” than is that claim to me. So, to reach some kind of shared understanding, it seems that we should all agree to start at the beginning and see what plausible sequence of cause-and-effect we can come up with when we do that.

    No objections, and well said.

    • #26
  27. John Racette Inactive
    John Racette
    @JohnRacette

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    John Racette (View Comment):
    Aim high, I say.

    Easy for you to say: you’re New Mexico Satellite Man.

    Most of us are earth-bound.

    And I’m wracked with guilt about that most of the time.

    • #27
  28. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Henry Racette:

    Whatever the history of racism in America, whatever the legacy of that injustice, what needs to change is the behavior of those black Americans who are failing to thrive.

    Some will argue, of course, that it’s the behavior of white Americans that causes the dysfunction of black Americans. The response to those people is simple: let’s document the specific behaviors of all concerned that lead to problems, and see what is most urgently in need of correction. I think any honest effort to do so will quickly illuminate the real problems.

    This formulation, also applied to poor white, sotto voce “trash,” (see for example Hillbilly Eulogy), is very convenient. It is all their fault, or effectively their fault. We need not deal with the malignant forces of the almost universal welfare state and laws/ordinances/policies that enable predators whilst keeping communities under permanent, multigenerational siege. I mean siege like Beirut level siege. Without basic security, there is no chance of stable employment, business growth, or education. Both Democrat and RepubliCAN’Ts are to blame here.

    AND.

    We need not deal with the malignant forces of the Republican business wing’s century or more long rigging, in collusion with the welfare state left, of the economic game. We saw President Donald Trump as a unique response to that gross, cynical, systemic corruption. He used the full power of Article II, with all the additional pieces ceded by Congress and the Courts to the unconstitutional Fourth Branch (the Administrative State), to drive employment and wages in the favor of those left behind and kept down for decades by crooked immigration and trade policy designed to permanently suppress wages by importing cheap temporary labor and exporting jobs. President Trump also responded to the sharp increase in killings of black and brown people in 2020 with a very public order, to the entire federal law enforcement apparatus, to apply every resource to getting killers and sources of street level violence behind bars. This is why there was a significant increase in black women voting for a Republican president in 2020, and this is why the Democrats and RepubliCAN’Ts colluded to produce the outcome with which we are now living.

     

    Yup, living at Ground Zero here in Appalachia it sometimes feels as if we’re “under siege”.  From the Right Wing we hear that our “real” solution is U-Haul; from the Left Wing we have our economies torn apart.  No problem though.  After all, we’re just a bunch of “Pillbillies”; right?  (That clever verbiage came out last week during the Pharma trials.)  

    You are absolutely correct; both parties are to blame for this.  Both rail against “picking winners and losers” in the U.S. economy but neither one hesitates to do so when it’s in their political interest.

    • #28
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